The name of the game in the horror genre is originality. Since different types of horror are commodities that deteriorates the more they are used, the new and innovative is always welcome, but not always appreciated. Case in point, found footage films (or as some like to call them, mockumentaries) took off after The Blair Witch Project, and got a revival in the late 2000s. Was this trend dead too early or can we finally bury it for good? Pretty please?
Let’s take a look at V/H/S.
V/H/S is a horror film compiled of different short stories using the framing narrative that each story on a VHS tape hoarded by a supposedly dead or comatose old man. It doesn’t not take two braincells rubbing together to figure out that no, the old man is not actually dead, and there’s one final scare at the end, though I won’t say what.
Each of the stories are scary in their own way, though the film makers were smart enough to put their heavy hitters first and last. Amateur Night has the freakiest of the segments due to some very well done special effects, and probably where a lot of people stopped watching. 10/31/98 feels like it was supposed to be a big finale but its shaky cam creates a confusing narrative that keeps the short from reaching its ultimate potential. That Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger is actually my personal favorite because of the weird nature and the original setup of the narrative through webcam chatting. Second Honeymoon was too much of a mood piece that led up to a less than stellar climax, and Tuesday the 17th is like a cross between Friday the 13th (the obvious reference) and The Invasion of the Body Snatchers and not in a good way.
The film’s overall narrative set up isn’t great. Unspoken framing narratives are tough to pull off and the one used here is no exception. All we know is a bunch of jerks break into a house to steal some VHS tapes and on the tapes are each story. We, the audience, have no idea what is going on and why the tapes are valuable or collected when they have these weird stories on them or why the old guy even has them. Yes, you need to have a way for all the stories to fit together but explain it better for the sake of the audience.
The visuals are pretty solid for found footage shorts, since most are sloppily edited messes that barely make sense. They tend to use original film angles, such as using webcams and recording eye-glass cameras. The special effects are spot on — disturbing enough to implement fear but grainy enough to look real. What isn’t stellar about the films is the audio. It can be difficult to hear the dialogue, which takes away from the comprehension. Cleaner audio would have been a big help to understanding the framing narrative and the noisier shorts. Still, the visual is better than normal, and is therefore a win.
V/H/S is a great movie if you’re looking for scary imagery and stories that will really haunt you, if wrapped up in a rather confusing package. I’m not sure if I’m a fan of found footage or of multiple short movies in one release. In the end, the reason I liked the movie as much as I did was because the concepts and scares in each stories, some of them working more effectively than others. It may not be a film that think entirely outside the box, but it’s one that’s trying to push the edges on it.
– Original stories.
– Great visuals and special effects.
– Strong scares.
– Confusing format.
– Some stories are hit or miss.
– Rough audio.